Seattle Mariners fans on Sunday were absolutely ecstatic about this upcoming season -- as they should be. I have been to big games at Safeco and also games at Angel Stadium in Anaheim (not Los Angeles), and have never seen Mariners fans as excited as they were this past Sunday in Peoria. They were excited at being able to see not only what will be coming in the future, but what is currently in place for the club.
The Mariners may not be favored to win the American League West, and they shouldn't be, but they will be much more entertaining to watch than in recent years and they have the chance to be the surprise team of the 2013 season, being picked as a number of so-called experts' dark-horse team already.
Blake Beavan was the starting pitcher in Sunday's game and he was light's out, retiring the first 10 hitters with ease in just 30 pitches. Beavan's new delivery -- focusing and trying to get more use out of his height and length -- seem to be doing the trick, and he went on to retire eight of the next 11. The 6-foot-7 right-hander finished the day with with a strong line: 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 K.
Beavan wasn't the only Mariners pitcher to shine though. Carter Capps had one of the most dominating performances I've seen in quite awhile. Capps sat Jeff Baker down on three pitches, and Brandon Snyder on five (although it appeared the strike zone became a little bigger during Snyder's at bat). He couldn't complete the trifecta and put Konrad Schmidt down on strikes, but the young flamethrower had him whiffing on a pair of high-90s fastballs early in the at bat, and then forced an easy pop up to center to retire the side. It was obvious the young Rangers talent could barely see the ball as they were swinging wildly on every fastball that came at them.
In the bottom of the fourth, Mariners fans went absolutely crazy when Raul Ibanez crushed a two-run shot to right field giving the Mariners a 2-1 lead. I had never seen M's fans react this way before though. Raul is back for his third tour of duty with Seattle and is without question once again a fan favorite. So many Mariners fans of old and new were shouting and cheering at the top of their lungs when he was announced and then suddenly launched into the haunting sound of "RAUUUUUUUUUUUL" in unison. I couldn't hold myself back from it as I joined in with the "UUUUUUL" parts. Along with the home run, Ibanez had sent two LOUD outs to the warning track in left field in his first and third at bats. This could possibly be a sign of some opposite field power at Safeco this season from Raul, and while he definitely took advantage of the short porch in New Yankees Stadium last season, Ibanez has hit 120 of his 271 career home runs to straight-away center field or the other way.
While M's old-timers went crazy for Ibanez, any baseball fan would have been crazy about the 8th inning. The quick disappointment and then sudden excitement was exhausting -- in the absolute best way -- over the course of the inning. The Rangers took the lead in the top of the inning from a 2-run single from Luis Sardinas, and the luster of the game seemed to be lost from the home crowd. After a 6-4-3 double play, a little more luster was lost and the good vibes started fading, then in stepped prospect Brad Miller.
I had been sitting with a group of older gentlemen (about eight in their sixties to seventies) who say they had been Mariners fans from day one and had never heard of Brad Miller, but loved the way he carried himself to the plate and particularly his fashion choice, with no batting gloves and high socks. I had told them to keep an eye on Brad, and that he was one of the most entertaining players I had personally seen play the game live. He did not disappoint. The left-hander fell in a 1 and 2 hole quickly, but after watching some pitches pass out of the zone and fouling a pair of fastballs off down the third base stands, he caught a changeup and sent it into the gap in right center and was able to speed his way into a triple. The men sitting with me definitely knew who Miller was after that outstanding at bat, and let him know it too, exploding with noise as he dove into third base.
The crowd stayed ecstatic for awhile longer as Kendrys Morales stepped up to the plate. It was the first time I had seen Morales in Navy as opposed to red, and it seemed like the Mariners fans were still waiting to approve of the acquisition. Morales ended up missing big on a changeup for strike two which drew the count full. Fans were whispering among each other about how he had gained weight and didn't look as sharp, and then he suddenly changed their mind. Fans shot to their feet as a line drive was being sent straight at the right field wall and the sudden uproar once they saw it squeak over the fences for a 2-run shot to take the lead. I couldn't hear myself think it was so loud inside the stadium. I'm pretty sure Morales had made his impression on the fans that day, including my photographer, who is an Angels fan. She didn't shy away from cheering either and I had realized that Morales will soon become loved in the city of Seattle just as he will be missed in Anaheim.
Ichiro trivia answer (and somewhat interesting, although slight of stature, reliever) Danny Farquhar closed the game out, with the first out of the ninth being stupidly good. Three fastballs from the diminutive right-hander to Nomar Mazara, swing and a miss on every single one. Final score, Mariners 4, Rangers 3.
I have to say the Peoria Complex is incredible. Can't say enough about the staff and the overall experience. If you get the chance I highly recommend making the trip to see the Mariners play there. Maybe you can catch the spirit from the crowd and feel the excitement around this team like I did.
You should also check out this quick interview I had with the high-socked, un-batting-gloved Brad Miller after Sunday's game here.
Looking for more Mariners player interviews, news and articles? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse Contributor Taylor Ward on Twitter at @taylorblakeward and site Editor Rick Randall at @randallball.